Young adults from the Bronx are connecting their neighbors to critical resources as part of our partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA Program.
The summer associates, who are between 18 and 24 years old, staff our My Bronx Impact call center. My Bronx Impact is a key strategy of Bronx Impact, a poverty reduction initiative coordinated by Children’s Aid in collaboration with Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.
The call center accompanies the online database we created to help Bronx residents looking for free or cost-based local resources like medical care, food, job training, housing, and education. The 23 summer associates, who work from July through September, work to make sure the database is accurate and to answer any questions residents may have about these services.
“Especially because of COVID, we want to make sure the resources are as up-to-date as can be,” said Nyasia Manning, the program manager for Bronx Impact. “They’ve made a huge dent in the work that we wouldn’t have been able to do [in a timely manner.]”
The call center has also allowed us to reach residents who may not be tech savvy or have access to reliable Wi-Fi. Summer associates speak Spanish, Fulani, Cantonese, and Albanian, allowing the Bronx Impact team to reach even more Bronxites.
“Being able to hear those nuanced stories about how the residents got into the situation they were in and why they need help – we weren’t able to do that with the website,” Nyasia said. “We don’t know the stories behind those situations and I think that helped connect us more to the community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the city budget and the Summer Youth Employment Program, which gives job opportunities to thousands of young people, had to be drastically reduced this year. This program helped to fill in those gaps. In addition to their 9 to 5 job, summer associates can access self-care, resume building, career development, and college readiness workshops.
Mina Bunch, 21, wanted a summer job before heading off to SUNY Purchase to complete her senior year. In addition to staffing the call center, the Mount Vernon resident is using her background in graphic design to create flyers and other content for the My Bronx Impact social media channels.
While her favorite aspect of the summer associate job is creating imagery and messaging for social media, the most important lessons she has learned come from her time staffing the call center.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned is to be patient and understanding toward people because these COVID circumstances have been really vile and harsh,” she said. “I’ve learned to communicate with people over the phone better and be more understanding.”
Mina has also taken advantage of the free workshops. She attended a resume and cover letter workshop and a financial assistance workshop.
“I found them super helpful,” she said. “I learned new ways to save money and budget better, and to make my cover letter look more interesting and appealing to people who hire.”